Biographical Essays: Essays, Biographical and Critical; Or, Studies of Character

Biographical Essays: Essays, Biographical and Critical; Or, Studies of Character

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Biographical Essays: Essays, Biographical and Critical; Or, Studies of Character

Biographical Essays: Essays, Biographical and Critical; Or, Studies of Character

Read FREE!

Excerpt

The memory of Washington is the highest and most precious of national blessings, and, as such, cannot be approached by artist or author without reverence. To pervert the traits or to mar the unity of such a character is to wrong, not only his sacred memory, but the dearest rights of his countrymen. A poet once conceived a drama based on the fate of André; and, after striving to embody Washington in the piece, in a manner coincident with his own profound sense of his character, he found that the only way of effecting this, without detriment to his ideal, was to keep that august presence off the stage, and to hint its vicinity by the reverent manner in which the name and views of Washington were treated by all the dramatis personæ. This instinct of dramatic propriety is a most striking proof of the native sacredness of the subject. The more fertile it may be to the poet and philosopher, the less right has the biographer to interfere with, overlay, or exaggerate, its primitive truth, and the more careful should he be in adhering to the lucid and conscientious statement of facts, in themselves, and for themselves, immeasurably precious.

"You have George the Surveyor," said Carlyle, in his quaint way, to an American, when talking of heroes. Never had that vocation greater significance. It drew the young Virginian unconsciously into the best education possible in a new country for a military life. He was thereby practised in topographical observation; inured to habits of keen local study; made familiar with . . .

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